Looking over the red wall in hope of a Labour revival | Letters

Readers respond to articles by Andy Beckett and Jonathan Freedland

Andy Beckett and Jonathan Freedland identify the challenges that Keir Starmer and his party face in reaching out to the “red wall” lost voters (Can Labour rebuild its red wall without losing its cities?, 12 September; Boris Johnson is trashing Britain’s reputation. Labour cannot stand by, 11 September).

Yes, there are common themes that can bring the fragile coalition of Labour voters together, such as public services and a fairer economy, but failure to address the issue of our future relationship with the EU would be a huge mistake.

Starmer has been tactically astute to stand back and let Tory MPs and peers voice opposition to the internal market bill, but this position is not sustainable in the long term. The bill is in effect an enabling act to dismantle the many EU standards and protections that still benefit UK consumers and workers, and will most likely adversely impact ex-Labour voters in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs.

It is on this issue, and continued access to the single market, that Labour has to articulate clearly without equivocation. It may bring back these voters and revive our declining vote in Scotland, while ensuring that we do not further alienate pro-EU voters. This could be the route to No 10 for Starmer.
Steve Flatley

• Andy Beckett is right. Labour must avoid making the mistakes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and leaving the economic field to the Conservatives who will always have the edge on cultural issues, especially with the red wall population. The old Labour coalition of trade unions and liberal intellectuals is as dead as the British empire, and can never be reborn. Labour should instead focus on economic policies and reforms that will appeal to a younger and better-educated electorate, beginning with the private market in homes.
Prof Roger Brown

• I take two issues with Andy Beckett’s article. First, and longest standing, can we put a stop to the use of “red wall” to refer to previously Labour-held constituencies? It was always patronising and is now a tired cliche notable for preventing rather than enabling insight. Second, Beckett argues that the way to unite the differing strands of potential Labour support (old and new) is to acknowledge their common ground. “They want more cheap housing, properly funded public services and a fairer economy,” he says. The truth is that voters who switched away from Labour have voted consistently for a government offering the opposite since 2010.
Mick Harney
Penrith, Cumbria

• What Andy Beckett identifies is an old problem memorably expressed in George Orwell’s writings. He wrote about a bus conductor contentiously speaking of a man wearing shorts and sandals who boarded his bus as being a Labour party member. A man who, by his appearance and manner, alienated this member of the proletariat. What the Labour leadership then realised was that despite the apparent differences between the metropolitan elite and the working classes, what united them was a belief in Labour’s core values of fairness and equality. Today’s leadership should recognise this.
Derrick Joad

• Andy Beckett reports on the depressing findings of a survey of red wall voters and their views, one of which is that they hate “urban liberals”. As a lifelong urban liberal, can I say that I feel exactly the same way about working-class Tories?
Pete Dorey
Bath, Somerset


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Unconventional wisdom on Labour ‘heartlands’ | Letters
Letters: Ian Wrigglesworth discusses the awkward fact that there is a substantial Tory vote in the north, Roger Backhouse advocates Old Lefties for Labour to win back the pensioner vote, Robert Leach says Labour should take a tip from the late former MP Jack Dunnett, and Dr Alyson Hall Yandoli proposes a new way of testing the leadership hopefuls


13, Jan, 2020 @5:42 PM

Article image
Labour has it all to play for at the next election | Letters
Letters: Les Summers thinks the next election is as open as any has ever been, while Dr Tim Williamson says a proportional voting system is essential. Plus Daniel Peacock and John Airs on Labour infighting


21, Apr, 2020 @5:11 PM

Article image
How a Labour opposition leader can show and command respect | Letters
Letters: Sean Day-Lewis cites Harold Wilson as the kind of opposition leader the current candidates should aspire to be, while David Hughes urges Jess Phillips to show more courtesy to the prime minister


16, Jan, 2020 @5:30 PM

Article image
Furore over Sue Gray’s Labour job exposes Tory hypocrisy | Letters
Letters: Readers react to the Conservative party’s attempts to discredit the civil servant after it was revealed that she was going to be Keir Starmer’s chief of staff

05, Mar, 2023 @5:20 PM

Article image
Should Labour oppose Brexit? | Letters
Letters: John Cookson says there is no political downside to Labour opposing Brexit, while Peter Rowlands thinks Labour can win on the basis of a soft Brexit


29, May, 2018 @5:23 PM

Article image
Class, language and localism in the Labour leadership race | Letters
Letters: Guardian readers share their views on the contest and its candidates


15, Jan, 2020 @4:37 PM

Article image
A Labour leader who can represent working-class interests | Letters
Letters: Lisa Nandy is the candidate best able to engage and listen to voters, says Giles Oakley, while Peter McKenna believes the party has become too middle-class. Plus letters from Les Bright, Geoff Debelle, Simon Warne and Ian Sinclair


24, Jan, 2020 @5:34 PM

Article image
The next Labour leader and what party members want | Letters
Letters: The party must get behind Jeremy Corbyn’s successor, writes Chris Morris, while Magi Young hopes for someone who can unite and motivate members up and down the country. Plus Shaun Soper and Brian Wilson on whether the leader should appeal most to members or the wider electorate


10, Jan, 2020 @5:18 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on Starmer’s Labour: time to take on the Tories | Editorial
Editorial: The Labour leader must know his party faces existential implications if it suffers a historic fifth election defeat


26, Sep, 2021 @4:53 PM

Article image
Which Labour leader do Tories fear most? | Letters
Letters: Jeremy Beecham says the fact that Conservatives are vehemently attacking Keir Starmer is telling. Donald Roy says it is not the case that only true Corbyn candidates were rewarded with volunteers and resources


31, Jan, 2020 @5:25 PM